fear: from scared to secure

“Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” — Isaiah 41:10 NIV

From scared to secure

Fear comes whispering 
in your ears
but it doesn’t sound
like fear at all. Oh, no,

it’s more like the voice
of reason, of questioning,
of common sense.

It brings all the what ifs,
what abouts, oughts and shoulds 
which are hard to ignore,
harder still to justify 

when faith feels a stretch
too far, while trust 
is asking you to take

a great big leap
into the abyss—into the 
dark. Our human hearts
are so easily 

alarmed, unsettled, made fraught
with worry and concern,
by scary thoughts,

by being asked for more
than we are capable 
of. But that’s only if
we rely on human

reasoning alone,
and forget to factor
in the power 

of our amazing,
death defying,
grace and hope 
supplying God. Because then

we’re not facing
anything all by ourselves 
or trying to make

important decisions 
without his help. But we are
relying, depending for all
we are worth,

on God’s mercy 
and wisdom 
to gently guide

and steer us forward.
It takes the sting 
out of whatever we
might be facing. 

The anxiety will leave,
be released
and slowly dissipate

as we move from being 
scared to securely 
dependent on God’s 
foresight and grace.
© joylenton 

“God hasn’t lost courage. God isn’t wavering on endurance. God doesn’t fear another day or another test, and God is standing behind me. He is making available for me all that he is. By grace through faith, I have nothing to fear, no reason to feel defeated.” — Gary L. Thomas ‘Simply Sacred: Daily Readings

Fear tends to infiltrate us out of nowhere. One minute we’re happily going about our days, and the next (or so it seems) we become scared of this or that, stuck in the muddy quagmire of worry, and consumed by anxiety and fear. A wall goes up and we cannot scale it, despite our best efforts.

I’ve experienced this over the last few months with the added stress of moving house before our previous property is sold. It’s the plethora of changes and extra admin that sink me, alongside the sheer weary overwhelm of being busy beyond my body’s capacity to cope. But there is hope and there is help for all troubled souls.

No scary situation we might face is a match for our matchless, fear-less heavenly Father’s grace.

God sits beside us, gently nudging us back to trust, softly reminding us of His all-encompassing Presence, great faithfulness, and constant love. And more than that, we have the gift of His calming and comforting Peace to keep us from staying afraid. May our faith be above every fear as we hand each one over to God.

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” — John 14:27 NIV

anticipating: the holy art of noticing

“Nature is too thin a screen; the glory of the omnipresent God bursts through everywhere” ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

My mostly sedentary, housebound life has, rather surprisingly, greatly enhanced whatever ability I might have for noticing. Observation pays dividends of hope and contentment whenever I look closely at living creatures, trees, flowers, and plants.

Nature lures me like a siren call, and I respond with joy, knowing how it lifts my spirit to engage with it all.

Anticipation builds as the seasons change because they all have different aspects that charm us. Life goes on without our full attentiveness, of course, but when we do pause to pay attention we are rewarded with wonderful scenic views, deeper appreciation, participation with the created world, spiritual insights, and maybe a poem to share..

Anticipating

Holiness seeps 
from each breath of wind,
whispering your majesty
because the still, 
small voice speaks 
louder than anything.

The land anticipates
your glorious presence 
as it waits to receive
each day’s instruction 
to shine your glory
and signal your peace.

Yes, even now,
with dripping trees bowed
low against each movement
of blustery wind and rain,
while a watery sun
licks the flowers again.

Even here, as the pigeon 
pokes her beak
into saturated soil,
expectant of finding 
seed, and the blackbirds
stoop to gather worms
as their daily spoil.

Nature might appear 
casually indifferent 
to holy breath 
but it shouts out the loudest
words of praise
to its Maker, always.

Earth has learnt
how to keep you
as its primary focus,
remaining sensitive 
to all the shifts
in its rhythmic pulse,
its seasonal chorus.

Oh may we be stirred 
to listen to its vibrant 
words, and give our own 
response, as our hearts rejoice 
in also being seen and heard.

May your peace rule
and reign 
in the midst of chaos 
because answers 
will flow, even if we think
no one can hear us.
© joylenton

“I love to think of nature as an unlimited broadcasting station, through which God speaks to us every hour, if we will only tune in.” ~ George Washington Carver

For those of you who might have been anticipating just when I would return and write here again, I’m glad to be back! But I have to say that I’m not sure as yet how regular my posts will be for a while, as this post explains. Keep noticing my friends. It will reward you more than you know to develop and heighten your awareness of God at work in the world. Xx 🙂 ❤

rain: blessing falling from the heavens

“For I will pour water on the thirsty land, and streams on the dry ground; I will pour out my Spirit on your offspring, and my blessing on your descendants. They will spring up like grass in a meadow, like poplar trees by flowing streams.” — Isaiah 44:3-4 NIV

Rain has sprayed these shores since the white brilliance of snow left us. We’ve had day after day of unrelenting rain and skies veiled in monochrome shades of grey.

Enough to sink a ship or sink our flagging spirits. But what if there was a different way to view rain? Could we find a fresh perspective on the downpours we receive and are not always thankful for?

Because biblical rain can be seen as a blessing, a gift of grace, a pointer to renewal, refreshment, and a vital, life-giving presence.

If we could look at rain through the lens of holy love, then we might welcome more of it in our lives—even if it brings dark clouds with glimpses of sunshine breaking out behind them.

Holy rain

 Your grace-fullness 
 tips me off balance
 because it inhabits 
 everything that exists,

 all that is seen 
 and unseen by us,
 revealed or deeply
 shrouded in mist. 

 It's a soul saturation, 
 a world drenching
 and a universe 

 bending under the sheer 
 glorious weight found 
 in your holy rain.

 It resembles hidden 
 treasure, buried deep
 within the thisness 
 of all things, 

 concealed as
 a vat of vintage coinage, 
 perhaps, rare and valuable 
 beyond words.

 My mind fails to fully 
 fathom its depths
 and the way it inhabits 
 my dailiness,

 weaving like silken
 threads between
 the darkened eaves 
 of each ordinary day. 
 © joylenton

The frequent showers and deluges that disrupt our days could be seen as openings for God’s presence, His refreshment for dry ground and our own parched souls, and a holy outpouring of His goodness and grace upon this thirsty world.

Have you been able to trace God’s blessings coming to you recently, either in tiny drops or abundant showers? How has it altered your perspective on what you are experiencing? I’d love you to share below. 🙂 ❤

“So keep on trying to know the Lord. His coming to us is as sure as the rising of the sun. He will come to us like the rain, like the spring rain giving water to the earth.” — Hosea 6:3 NLV

waiting: the holy work of Advent and beyond

“Waiting on God requires the willingness to bear uncertainty, to carry within oneself the unanswered question, lifting the heart to God about it whenever it intrudes upon one’s thoughts.” ― Elisabeth Elliot

Waiting 

 sunlight weakens
 colour fades as mists descend
 December's here
 wrapping us in thick fogginess
 hunker down, it's nearly Christmas

 days slide by
 in a rush toward the night
 our souls moan and sigh
 darkness outside increases
 the onward march is ceaseless

 we become hungry
 for hope, for warmth, for light
 a safe place to abide
 while our souls grow accustomed
 to the season we are in

 clothed with silhouettes
 the trees stand sentinel-bare
 like bereft soldiers
 guarding the fort of their thoughts
 waiting for spring's reward

 maybe you and I
 can keep the vigil with them
 our hearts tuned to spring
 as wintry winds whistle hard
 let's remain patient and calm
 © joylenton

“This is the most precious answer God can give us: wait. It makes us cling to him rather than to an outcome. God knows what I need; I do not. He sees the future; I cannot. His perspective is eternal; mine is not. He will give me what is best for me when it is best for me.” ― Vaneetha Rendall Risner, The Scars That Have Shaped Me: How God Meets Us in Suffering

Friends, you’ve been waiting several weeks to see when I might return to writing in this space. Thank you for your patience! I’m so glad to be back. We seem to spend much of our lives waiting for this and that, don’t we? The season of Advent highlights how to wait with intention, with purpose, with hope and expectation in our hearts.

May we begin it with such anticipation. And may we aim to listen harder for God’s soft footsteps in our hearts. He longs to draw near to us and whisper His wisdom to our receptive souls but so often we become weary in the waiting and slow to respond. Let’s ask God to increase our ability to stay, to be open, to wait, and to receive. Because Jesus, our Light-bringer is well worth waiting for.

prayer: it makes a greater difference than we know

prayer - paper aeroplane - it makes a greater difference than we know - Joy Lenton @poetryjoy.com

So often we think of prayer like sending flimsy paper aeroplanes into the ether, where they act like drifting darts that fail to hit their intended target. But what if we saw each prayer more as an arrow that reaches straight to the heart of God? 

Might that make a difference in our willingness to pray, and encourage our hope that all prayer is heard and answered in some way? I think so. Because the bible urges us to pray at all times and in all seasons, while it declares how our prayers can rise as fragrant incense to God’s throne above.

”Our prayers may be awkward. Our attempts may be feeble. But since the power of prayer is in the one who hears it and not in the one who says it, our prayers do make a difference.” — Max Lucado

prayer - “Any concern too small to be turned into a prayer is too small to be made into a burden.” quote (C) Corrie Ten Boom @poetryjoy.com

Prayer isn’t something to be feared because of our perceived failure at it. Rather, prayer is to be welcomed as a wonderful, privileged part of our relationship with God, as we maintain an open dialogue with Him. And when we take all our worries and concerns to God, we get to experience His rest and peace.

The poem below describes the frustration we might experience when we seemingly get no answers to prayer. It also points to the biblical hope and promise we have of our prayers actually landing up where they should—straight to the loving heart of our Father God.

Paper aeroplanes

I try to shoot
paper aeroplanes
into the ether

but they fall,
floating aimlessly,
landing languidly
at my feet,

while others curve,
slither and slide
across the ceiling,

darting like flies,
getting nowhere
it seems.

I cannot see
why they don’t hit
their intended target,

pierce through layers
of fluffy cloud,
this veiled curtain

of azure blue shroud
where hope enough
exists to send them off.

I can only assume,
more and more
as time passes,

that they are too small,
deemed unworthy planes,
perhaps, tipped off

balance, somehow,
sent careening
sideways, adrift,

instead of being
faithfully received.
Yet the eyes of faith

suggest I look further,
try to see beyond
and believe

there is a place
where clouds will part,
open up for this

faithfully sent
aerial fleet,
these fragile, tentative

aeroplanes of prayer
to actually penetrate
the air, the heavens,
where they are

joyfully received above,
carefully curated,
acted upon with love.
© joylenton

prayer - Prayer is not overcoming God’s reluctance... quote (C) Martin Luther @poetryjoy.com

“Prayer lays hold of God’s plan and becomes the link between His will and its accomplishment on earth. Amazing things happen, and we are given the privilege of being the channels of the Holy Spirit’s prayer.” — Elisabeth Elliot

Where has prayer made a difference in your life or the lives of those you’ve prayed for? Let’s rejoice in it together… 🙂 ❤

courage: rising up to face life’s challenges

courage - rising up to face life's challenges @poetryjoy.com

We might think that being courageous is strictly for heroes and heroines. But we’d be wrong. Because all of us will face difficulties and challenges, need to access courage, develop resilience, and discover our inner brave as we take each small step of faith.

With God’s help, we can scale the mountains before us or find a way to go around them. Although the path might be thorny and hard, God will infuse strength and courage into our hearts. All we need do is ask.

“Nothing but encouragement can come to us as we dwell upon the faithful dealing of our Heavenly Father in centuries gone by. Faith in God has not saved people from hardships and trials, but it has enabled them to bear tribulations courageously and to emerge victoriously.” — Lee Roberson

courage - “Discouraged not by difficulties without, or the anguish of ages within quote - Helen Keller @poetryjoy.com

Courage

tugging at weeds
I disturb a sleepy beetle
he staggers out blind
moves drunkenly across grass
losing his way on hot tiles

I watch him
skittering unsteadily
like a skater
wobbling on the ice
thrown off their stride

before long
he seeks refuge again
a dark recess
lush, fresh greenery
a new, safe habitat

it doesn’t take much
a gentle tug alone
stirs us to move
out of our comfort zone
where courage awaits us

we might blink
unaccustomed
like moles in the light
having to leave behind
our familiar places

we recoil
grip tight on the usual
before reaching out
to touch the new and the next
we’re being called to embrace

eventually
however weak-kneed we feel
our fingers test walls
we probe possibilities
and find our way home
© joylenton

courage - emerging mole - courage poem excerpt (C) joylenton @poetryjoy.com

“Down through the centuries in times of trouble and trial God has brought courage to the hearts of those who love Him. The Bible is filled with assurances of God’s help and comfort in every kind of trouble which might cause fears to arise in the human heart. You can look ahead with promise, hope, and joy.” — Billy Graham

Where are you needing courage today, my friend? Turn to God and seek His help. God will always rise to give us strength and help us face whatever is making us afraid. Hold onto God’s promises, and wait for Him to act on your behalf as you take the first tentative steps forward. Though your heart might quake and quail, remember that His courage never fails.

PS: I have a free pdf soul care gift for you today!

< – – Just click on the image here to download it.

It’s called Soul Shots: 31 Days of Pocket Wisdom for Your Hurting Heart, and is an eclectic mix of reflections and poetry.

May it bless and encourage your heart and bring back hope when life gets hard and dark. 🙂 ❤

waiting: when desire gives way to deeper surrender

waiting - girl sitting by the roadside - when desire gives way to deeper surrender @poetryjoy.com

I’m feeling fried and frazzled in a scorching August heatwave. As I’m waiting to cool down, I’m reminded that the earth itself is incrementally heating up. We sense the stirrings of earth’s birth pangs, the longing it has for deliverance, and considered attention from its custodians.

Our own hearts (never mind our bothered bodies) can feel unsettled by a yearning for change. Because waiting is hard, isn’t it? Our society and world at large are like life on speed, with a drivenness that doesn’t sit easily with being rested, calm and at peace.

We all sit with unfulfilled desires. One of  mine is to write more books before I get too ill, too old or lose my poetic touch. I long to unleash all the creativity that lies within me, rather than sitting on dusty files which remind me that those books are not going to write themselves… get a move on, girl! Only impatience isn’t conducive to getting a good result. 😉

“In the drivenness of our society, it’s hard to make time to relax our efforts and find transforming energy. That’s why we need this particular posture of waiting so much. When we sit in this way we’re relaxing the bow; we’re coming to rest in a very deep way in God, allowing ourselves to be cradled in the sighing mystery of Christ’s prayer.”— When the Heart Waits: Spiritual Direction for Life’s Sacred Questions by Sue Monk Kidd

waiting - pocket watch - hourglass - rose - Our society and world at large are like life on speed quote (C) joylenton @poetryjoy.com

Desire

desire at rest
cultivated by God’s grace
in the waiting room
where we learn to still our hearts
quiet the rush, quell our thoughts

the divine promise
gets birthed and earthed in us
in God’s timing
we will finally receive
an abundance of good things

in this posture
where submissiveness counts
where trust is formed
here we mature, learn and grow
develop patience in our souls

soul detachment
enables us to let go
of our wanting
and expectancy follows
when we embrace faith and hope

freedom of desire
might feel alien to us
it’s a holy thing
where our desires and will line up
with what the Father wants for us
© joylenton

waiting - desire poem excerpt (C) joylenton @poetryjoy.com

“That is why waiting does not diminish us, any more than waiting diminishes a pregnant mother. We are enlarged in the waiting. We, of course, don’t see what is enlarging us. But the longer we wait, the larger we become, and the more joyful our expectancy” — Romans 8:24–25 The Message

May I pray for you, my friend?

Dear Father God,

Thank you for your loving and protective care of us. Our days are an open book to you because you hold past, present and future in your hands. Help us to wait with patient expectation and confident trust when we desire to forge ahead with this project or that. If we’re in a season of being slowed, grant us the ability to stay encouraged and calm, and believe for better days to come. May we learn to go with the natural rhythm and flow of our days and remain sensitive to Holy Spirit’s gentle leading and guiding.

Amen

May we remember that however far we might stray, get impatient or fail to sense His presence, God is always eagerly waiting for us to turn to Him. 😊❤️

stilling: learning to love your ordinary life

stilling - choose joy - learning to love your ordinary life @poetryjoy.com

“This is a wonderful day. I’ve never seen this one before.” — Maya Angelou

So often fear of change nibbles at our souls like a restless rat. It makes us fail to appreciate what we already have before us, right here, right now. I find myself falling into a dissatisfaction trap whenever I forget to live with mindful awareness and a joyful and grateful heart.

We can get so caught up in the challenges, fears and frustrating minutiae of life that we neglect to lift up our heads and appreciate where and how we are really situated. God is the giver of all good gifts, and He strews gifts of grace along each person’s daily pathway—but we need receptive eyes, stilled minds, and open hearts to see, sense and be thankful for them. 

Because each day presents us with an opportunity to taste joy, sense the marvellous in the mundane, express our gratitude, and give God praise for who He is and how He takes such great care of us. 

stilling - forest - trees - God is the giver of all good gifts quote (C) joylenton @poetryjoy.com

“So much has been given to me; I have no time to ponder over that which has been denied.” — Helen Keller

Stilling

I hold my breath—as if I could
still the clock, hold back
the swinging seasons, perhaps,

call time on winter’s
cold, dark, muffled cloak,
the icy grip of SAD that sends
me to my inner knees.

Can I not simply
still time on this moment’s
pendulum, which I prefer

to those that have gone
before? Those lockdown
days, weeks and months
of great adaptation and change.

My mind (helpfully) reminds
me that nothing stays
the same. Each dull routine

still has to yield
to the unexpected,
the suddenness of the new
or the long neglected.

Yet something in me
feels as if I want
to remain rooted in Now,

to savour summer
before it segues into autumn,
get my fill of light, of warmth,
of hope, and snatches of joy.

Then another thing
comes to my remembrance,
and I muse on the way

each day has opportunity
to receive such gifts
if I remain receptive enough

to notice, and still
my heart to not reject them.
© joylenton

stilling - dandelion clock - stilling poem excerpt (C) joylenton @poetryjoy.com

“As long as this exists, this sunshine and this cloudless sky, and as long as I can enjoy it, how can I be sad?” — Anne Frank

Although I frequently want to press pause on the moments I enjoy because they seem so fleeting, it isn’t a life of busy eventfulness I crave but a stilled, peaceful soul saturated in holy satisfaction, love and grace.  Keeping a daily gratitude journal helps us stay calm and content. Here are 3 things I’m grateful for:

  • having energy and focus enough to write this post
  • our tomatoes are greening at last, if not reddening yet
  • I prepared this before a scorching heatwave hit to fog my thoughts

What are you thankful for today, my friend? 🙂 ❤

reality: what helps keep us grounded and at peace

reality - trees - sky - landscape - what helps keep us grounded and at peace (C) joylenton @poetryjoy.com

These are deeply unsettling times we are living in, aren’t they? They make us yearn for a sense of solidity and thirst for a firm grounding beneath our feet. Perhaps it exists as a present reality, closer at hand than we might think.

Creation breathes out its beauty and begs us to receive it as soul food, as a nurturing balm to help us stay grounded and calm. Each time we pay attention to growing flowers and plants we get to observe how nature deals with its own seasons of alteration and loss.

In the tanka sequence poem below, I invite you to take a journey of the heart, a pause to consider what nature has to teach us now, what lies ahead, and how we are all connected to the past.

May you receive an awakening of hope and faith that will help ground you in the realest of realities. Namely that God is still in charge, and all things are somehow being worked out for good even as our lives feel shaken to the core.

reality - red and yellow begonias - Creation breathes out its beauty quote (C) joylenton @poetryjoy.com

Reality

what is real
is the soil beneath our feet
solidity
earth grounds us, holds us fast
when all else trembles into dust

the imprints
markers of every man
woman and child
who ever lived and died
are seeded, left behind

the earth
holds all our memories
in its DNA
it doesn’t forget how we lived
breathed and walked this way

every acreage
in the changing landscape
holds a legacy
it will keep the faith for us
when we are lost, faithless

reality - garden - flowers - gate - every acreage in the changing landscape holds a legacy - (C) joylenton @poetryjoy.com

nature sings
an eternal siren song
we strain to listen
unaccustomed to its melody
the way it reverberates and speaks

our reality
is so often shaped by lust
fuelled by greed
hot desire can set us on fire
we lose what we have coveted

we don’t need
all that much to survive
we do need
the insight to understand
just how to live, grow and thrive

reality - bee - yellow flowers - we don't need all that much to survive (C) joylenton @poetryjoy.com

the natural world
provides all our necessities
all we need to live
enough resources to share
if we were generous and fair

the ethereal
the mystical, intangible
lies within our reach
it’s already invaded earth
promising us new life, new birth

our souls
rooted to earth’s reality
become whole
when they are connected
to Father, Son, Holy Spirit

God made
all that is sensed and found
he gave
his life to open our eyes
to the unlimited beyond
© joylenton

reality - garden - pond - leaves - our souls rooted to earth's reality become whole (C) joylenton @poetryjoy.com

“The calm of a summer night
embodies Your peace, O Lord.
The beauty of a sunset
embodies Your truth, O Lord.
Everything in all creation
shouts the reality of You.”

Transformed by Love: Prayers and Reflections for All Seasons by Liz Babbs